Artifacts found on DNR site
About 1,500 years ago, people gathered on the northern shores of Lake Minnewaska to work, rest and share meals—and thanks to a recent archaeological dig, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has the pottery to prove it.
Mike Magner, an archaeologist with the DNR’s Forestry and Fish & Wildlife divisions, explained that when the DNR takes on building projects, it is standard procedure to have archaeologists examine the affected area for possible impacts to historical sites.
One such site was found at the DNR project underway at the local Fish & Wildlife office—a failing building along North Lakeshore Drive which is being torn down to make way for a new, energy-efficient, zero-carbon footprint facility.
Magner said he hesitates to label the site “prehistoric” because of the caveman connotation. “These were sophisticated people,” he explained. Instead, he calls it a pre-contact site—meaning before the native population had contact with Europeans.
“This is something the DNR does,” Magner said. “This is state law; state-funded projects [construction sites] must be examined.” Magner explained that the first priority is to look for ways to mitigate the impact to a site of historical significance. In the case of the Glenwood site, he said, there’s no way to avoid building on the site; their job now is to uncover as much of the site’s mystery as possible.
“We are learning as much as we can before excavation,” he said. If the project continues as planned, he said residents and visitors can expect to see archaeologists working onsite for about another month.
What they’ve found
So far, Magner and fellow archaeologist Stacy Allan have unearthed pottery fragments, arrowheads and a plethora of animal bones presumed to be from meals.
“Judging from what we’ve found, people have lived at—or used—this location for at least 1,500 years,” said Magner.
The types of pottery found, he said, lead he and Allan to believe that the site on Lake Minnewaska was used for short-term seasonal habitation. They’ve dated the pottery from 1,500 to 800 years ago, and the types are closely related to those of both the forest region to the north and east, and the prairie region to the south and west. The mixing of the two, said Magner, suggests that Lake Minnewaska was on the seasonal rounds of both peoples.
The animal bones they’ve uncovered range from fish all the way up to bison, with turtle, beaver and possibly other species in between.
What happens next
Magner said as the dig progresses the pottery will be analyzed and cataloged, then become part of the state’s permanent collection. Based on the findings, a report will be generated that anyone can reference. The specific pottery pieces will be available to study, and Magner suggested the possibility of a display being put together at the Pope County Museum.